Poetry Wednesday – A Reminder to All

To an Athlete Dying Young

The time you won your town the race
We chaired you through the market-place;
Man and boy stood cheering by,
And home we brought you shoulder-high.
Today, the road all runners come,
Shoulder-high we bring you home,
And set you at your threshold down,
Townsman of a stiller town.
Smart lad, to slip betimes away
From fields where glory does not stay,
And early though the laurel grows
It withers quicker than the rose.
Eyes the shady night has shut
Cannot see the record cut,
And silence sounds no worse than cheers
After earth has stopped the ears.
Now you will not swell the rout
Of lads that wore their honours out,
Runners whom renown outran
And the name died before the man.
So set, before its echoes fade,
The fleet foot on the sill of shade,
And hold to the low lintel up
The still-defended challenge-cup.
And round that early-laurelled head
Will flock to gaze the strengthless dead,
And find unwithered on its curls
The garland briefer than a girl’s.


  1. The Poets…Bonetti (“I wanted no monuments in my name….)Smart guy.
    Donne-“Valediction Forbidding Mourning”
    Dylan Thomas “Refusal to mourn the Death of a Child By Fire…”.
    Winfred Owen “Dulcem et Decorum Est..”
    Robert Hutchinson “Wayfarer”:
    “If I could do the things I please I’d take a ship and roam the seas…”.

    Wish I could nail a couple of stanzas like the past but the memory nodes must fried. Well, its still fun even if you need help completing the lines.

  2. william m. connolly

    I end POETRY WENDESDAY on a high note, but see my comment below which indicates Matt of Boston is incapable of keeping on the high road, but rather chooses the low road of misstating what his critics’ say and then arguing against the misstatements.

    ‘No Man is an Island’
    By John Donne
    No man is an island entire of itself; every man
    is a piece of the continent, a part of the main;
    if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe
    is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as
    well as any manner of thy friends or of thine
    own were; any man’s death diminishes me,
    because I am involved in mankind.
    And therefore never send to know for whom
    the bell tolls; it tolls for thee. John Donne’s 400 year old poem

    Dirge Without Music
    I am not resigned to the shutting away of loving hearts in the hard ground.
    So it is, and so it will be, for so it has been, time out of mind:
    Into the darkness they go, the wise and the lovely. Crowned
    With lilies and with laurel they go; but I am not resigned.

    Lovers and thinkers, into the earth with you.
    Be one with the dull, the indiscriminate dust.
    A fragment of what you felt, of what you knew,
    A formula, a phrase remains,—but the best is lost.

    The answers quick and keen, the honest look, the laughter, the love,—
    They are gone. They are gone to feed the roses. Elegant and curled
    Is the blossom. Fragrant is the blossom. I know. But I do not approve.
    More precious was the light in your eyes than all the roses in the world.

    Down, down, down into the darkness of the grave
    Gently they go, the beautiful, the tender, the kind;
    Quietly they go, the intelligent, the witty, the brave.
    I know. But I do not approve. And I am not resigned.

    • He was responding to your post. What is wrong with that? This is a blog and comments are just that. Don’t lose any sleep over it, Bill.

      “Matt apparently thinks the way to argue is to first falsely state what I did not state, and then in a braggart’s braggadocio fashion, to argue against what I never said.”

      Bill. Really? You do this ALL THE TIME. You always put the question in the form of an accusation about things never said. It is probably the biggest flaw in your postings. But, don’t stop doing it. Its you.

  3. william m. connolly

    Matt has the anti-intellectual habit of setting up Straw Men, then he knocks them down and thinks he’s smartly knocking them down.

    After I posted praise for President Reagan placing a flag at Bitburg honoring German Soldiers who died for their country who were Not Nazis . . .I specifically wrote, Not Nazis, Matt then sadly got on his holier than thou HIgh Horse, and asked me to what extent I supported NAZIS, or if were ignorant of the history of Ireland and Oliver Cromwell, or whether I praised the Black and Tans or whether I approved of the persecution of the Irish, or why I had praised a Southern Soldier who had honorably . . .and I had used the word honorably . . .fought for his State, whether Mississippi, Alabama or Georgia . . . .Matt benightedly argued that I did not understand the Southerner should have obeyed the Union Officer . . . . How blind of me?


    Matt apparently thinks the way to argue is to first falsely state what I did not state, and then in a braggart’s braggadocio fashion, to argue against what I never said.

    This tactic is beyond anti-intellectual . . .It is sophomoric . . . it is sad to say, laughable.

    Try this next time Matt: Try to quote me in full, not falsely paraphrase me.

    Your attempt to ride a high horse is . . . .well I’ll refrain from the negatives. It is not as if this is the first time you’ve done this. You have repeatedly for over four months now mischaracterize and falsely paraphrased me, and attributed thoughts and attitudes to me which I do not hold. Like, you last post, Bill you have always been against masks. It is laughable. But if you get your kicks out of falsely stating what I have never said, then who can stop you? You have done this with many others. Try to amend your ways.

    As, said. It’s sophomoric to set up a Straw Man and then pretend you are brilliantly or heroically or morally superiorly knocking that Straw Man down.

    You have a college degree and law degree . . . .try to argue rationally, without distorting your critics’ viewpoints.

    • The saddest thing one encounters
      is when one runs away from what one said. To quote: “Let’s honor all Americans who fought honorably in all our wars, on all sides. Let’s honor the British, Irish, Scots, Welsh, German (Hessian) soldiers who served their nation or their principles.
      We should not be so blind to history as to fail to see their were good men and good women on all sides in these momentous clashes, Revolutionary Wars, Civil Wars and World Wars.”

      Who were the good men among the Black and Tan? The German forces fighting under the Nazi flag. Cromwell’s butchers? The Americans who fought for the Nazi armies? (There was no German Army in WWII. They all fought under the Nazi swasticker.

      The men who fought to keep slavery or against the army seeking to end slavery should not be honored with statues even if their goal was merely to break up the union. Should those in the Eastern European countries not have torn down the statues of Stalin or Russian soldiers? Should they have honored them.

      Learn to recognize when you are totally wrong. Engaging in ad hominem attacks does not support your faulty ideas. And yes, you argued strenuously against masks suggesting they don’t help while it is the universal opinion that they do.

  4. Merhlin is a photographer posting
    music mated with photos on YouTube

    Back in the mid 60 ‘s when I was living on
    Symphony road behind Symphony Hall in
    Boston, trombonist Doug Wauchope
    deconstructed for me , Benjamin Britten’s setting of
    “Serenade For Tenor Horn and Strings” a collection of
    poets set to music.
    He explained the part for French horn is
    extremely challenging especially if one is playing
    a old , valveless French Horn ,as Dennis Brain does in this
    recording. The high leaps are difficult to play.

    The back story is Dennis Brain was gay .
    Dennis Brain is considered one of the
    greatest French Horn players.
    Benjamin Britten was Peter Pears lover.
    Peter Pears is one of the great Tenors of all time.
    That is how they rolled.

    This selection is by the poet Tennyson and deals in part with

    The photos are superb .

  5. Great poem. When I read it to my wife she always sobs a bit. The Runaway is one of my favorite Frost poems, and of course The Witch Of Coos. I have memorized Address To The Haggis by Bobby Burns. I was told that if I thought my memory was slipping, to memorize a long poem or a complicated one. I have always loved Burns so I chose Haggis.

    And the late and greatest card magician use to recite this amazing poem during his performances.

    by William Earnest Henley

    “Tout aux tavernes et aux filles.”

    Suppose you screeve? or go cheap-jack?
    Or fake the broads? or fig a nag?
    Or thimble-rig? or knap a yack?
    Or pitch a snide? or smash a rag?
    Suppose you duff? or nose and lag?
    Or get the straight, and land your pot?
    How do you melt the multy swag?
    Booze and the blowens cop the lot.
    Fiddle, or fence, or mace, or mack;
    Or moskeneer, or flash the drag;
    Dead-lurk a crib, or do a crack;
    Pad with a slang, or chuck a fag;
    Bonnet, or tout, or mump and gag;
    Rattle the tats, or mark the spot;
    You can not bank a single stag;
    Booze and the blowens cop the lot.
    Suppose you try a different tack,
    And on the square you flash your flag?
    At penny-a-lining make your whack,
    Or with the mummers mug and gag?
    For nix, for nix the dibbs you bag!
    At any graft, no matter what,
    Your merry goblins soon stravag:
    Booze and the blowens cop the lot.
    It’s up the spout and Charley Wag
    With wipes and tickers and what not.
    Until the squeezer nips your scrag,
    Booze and the blowens cop the lot.

    If you are not familiar with Ricky Jay go onto YouTube and look for any of his performances. You will be shaking your head for the rest of your life.

    • William M. Connolly

      An English major, lawyer, friend of ours at Boston College who spoke fluently eruditely matter of factly, replied casually when asked, “Frankie (Coughlin), do you know the meaning of every word in Webster’s English Dictionary?” “Yes, I do.”

      I bet he doesn’t know the meaning of every word in Mr. Henley’s just quoted poem. I am going to look them up, because I like words’ meanings, what they denote and connote, and I like their musical sound, THE VIBE, all derived from the First Vibe, the First Word, Our Father’s utterance or thought-wave, “Let there be light . . .”

      I recall a science fiction story that ended with the end of the world, the end of all stars, and all that was left was a galaxy sized computer, a hunk of metal, that churned on for billions of years, computing, and then the big machine moaned and groaned, and some sounds came from it: Let there be light

      Anway, I wonder if the poet Mr. Henley is related to Don Henley of the great rock and roll Eagles of the 1970s. . . .my favorite Don Henley was his solo The End of Innocence . . .great piano, simple chord progression, simple but great . . .greatness

      Reminds me
      To be ignorant of history, is to always be a child.

      • William M. Connolly

        Cicero said, To be ignorant of history is to always be a child . . .and that’s what we see with those who are tearing down statutes . . .they have no respect for the past . . . .no respect for heroes . . .no respect for traditions . . .no respect for history . . .they forget President Reagan put an American Flag of Remembrance at the Bitburg Cemetery in Germany to honor German soldiers, not Nazis, ordinary German Soldiers who fought and died for their homeland . . . .and they forget Shelby Foote’s Civil War History on DVD and the recollection and remembrance of a Southern Confederate Soldier, from Mississippi, Alabama, or Georgia who was asked by a Union Officer, “Son, why are you fighting us? You don’t own any slaves.” And the real life Johnny Reb,just a poor farm boy, responded: “I am fighting you because you’re down here.”
        Let’s honor all Americans who fought honorably in all our wars, on all sides. Let’s honor the British, Irish, Scots, Welsh, German (Hessian) soldiers who served their nation or their principles.
        We should not be so blind to history as to fail to see their were good men and good women on all sides in these momentous clashes, Revolutionary Wars, Civil Wars and World Wars.

        Ring those bells, as Bob Dylan sang, they’re breaking down the distance between right and wrong. Ring those bells St. Catherine, one of the earliest youngest martyrs for Christ and righteousness.

        • William M. Connolly

          Ring Them Bells
          Bob Dylan
          Ring them bells ye heathen from the city that dreams
          Ring them bells from the sanctuaries cross the valleys and streams
          For they’re deep and they’re wide
          And the world is on its side
          And time is running backwards
          And so is the bride
          Ring them bells Saint Peter where the four winds blow
          Ring them bells with an iron hand
          So the people will know
          Oh it’s rush hour now
          On the wheel and the plow
          And the sun is going down upon the sacred cow
          Ring them bells Sweet Martha for the poor man’s son
          Ring them bells so the world will know that God is one
          Oh the shepherd is asleep
          Where the willows weep
          And the mountains are filled with lost sheep
          Ring them bells for the blind and the deaf
          Ring them bells for all of us who are left
          Ring them bells for the chosen few
          Who will judge the many when the game is through
          Ring them bells for the time that flies
          For the child that cries
          When innocence dies
          Ring them bells for Saint Catherine from the top of the room
          Ring them bells from the fortress for the lilies that bloom
          Oh the lines are long and the fighting is strong
          And they’re breaking down the distance between right and wrong

        • William:

          Johnny Reb the guy who was fighting for the guys who wanted to keep slaves supposed said to a Union officer: “I’m fighting you because you’re down here” exemplifies the reason why no statue should honor the Confederate soldiers because his “down here” was part of America and a Union officer being there is where he should have been. Why honor people who fought to tear our nation asunder?

          During WWII there were Americans who fought on the side of the Germans (Nazis) – are they to be honored? Did you ever hear of the British Black and Tans, the army of Cromwell in Ireland with its “go to Connaught or hell!” Do you want to honor the Nazi SS which barbarously murdered many; or those soldiers who shoved mostly Jewish people into the ovens? What about Pol Pot’s soldiers? I could go on but the naivete in suggesting there are good men on all sides means if withing an army committing genocide there is one soldier who may be good we mush honor those people.

          We all don’t have choices. Many are put in positions where to survive they may have to serve and evil power. But because of that we don’t honor the evil power. There is a difference between right and wrong.

          The Nuremberg trials settled that a long time ago. Justice Jackson stated: “one who has committed criminal acts may not take refuge in superior orders nor in the doctrine that his crimes were acts of states. These twin principles working together have heretofore resulted in immunity for practically everyone concerned in the really great crimes against peace and mankind. “

          Jackson also noted: “Every day in the courts of countries associated in this prosecution, men are convicted for acts that they did not personally commit, but for which they were held responsible because of membership in illegal combinations or plans or conspiracies.” No we do not honor people who fought for evil causes.

      • Bill, and all who are interested in seeing this amazing card man do his stuff. Watch this YouTube video now. It is part of a much longer one but to watch the whole show is about 45 minutes. This is 4 or five.

        • Honest:

          I love that stuff. Thanks. As George Best said: “I spent a lot of money on booze, birds and fast cars. The rest I just squandered.”

  6. William M. Connolly

    Matt, at that same poetry reading at Boston College, the young coed, Ashley, a member of the Boston College Chorale/Orchestra under the inestimable John Finney, sat beside me, we chatted, she said her favorite poet was John Dunne, her professor ascended the stairs, Ashley beckoned to him, and he sat between us; I recited Frost’s Poem to him, which he asked me to repeat, “And when to the heart of man, was it anything less than treason, to go with the drift of things, to yield with a grace to reason, to bow and accept the end of a love or a season.”
    The inestimably lovely Ashley, who also served coffee part time at the Chocolate Bar, where I, the old gate guard, took his coffee breaks, sometimes sitting down for a few minutes, looking, listening to the buzz or chatting with my friend, Steve, the custodian . . . . .Ashley, as said, mentioned Dunne as her favorite, I had mentioned Yeats, then after his talk the Poet/Radiation-Oncologist/B.C. grad who was getting an award at that year’s Arts Festival at B.C., said in response to a question that Yeats 1916 was the first poem he read in high school that got him interested in poetry and that John Dunne was his favorite poet. Ashley and I looked at each other, across the professor’s lap, and smiled.

    Here’s one of John Dunne’s inestimable poems:

    Holy Sonnets: Death, be not proud
    Death, be not proud, though some have called thee
    Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so;
    For those whom thou think’st thou dost overthrow
    Die not, poor Death, nor yet canst thou kill me.
    From rest and sleep, which but thy pictures be,
    Much pleasure; then from thee much more must flow,
    And soonest our best men with thee do go,
    Rest of their bones, and soul’s delivery.
    Thou art slave to fate, chance, kings, and desperate men,
    And dost with poison, war, and sickness dwell,
    And poppy or charms can make us sleep as well
    And better than thy stroke; why swell’st thou then?
    One short sleep past, we wake eternally
    And death shall be no more; Death, thou shalt die.

  7. William M. Connolly

    This is a great poem, and I’ve always loved poetry as I’ve loved music, especially the piano/keyboards. Billy Powell on Lynyrd Skynyrd Free Bird, the 13 minute version, is in my mind comparable to Beethoven’s Song of Joy, the Ninth.

    To An Athlete Dying Young reminds me of Frankie Comerford, Savin Hill’s great athlete, who was a star at English High School. Frankie, only sixteen years old, was killed playing Park League Football, with men in their twenties and up, almost semi-pro, when he was tackled and his head hit a metal drain cover . . . in a coma for a few days, then he passed away. Imagine circa 1960, a City Football Field with a large metal grate on the sidelines. What negligence!

    I, along with hundreds, attended Frankie’s wake at Murphy’s and funeral mass at St. Williams. Our gang of 100, forty guys, forty younger guys, and twenty five of us, The Cornpoppers, were all within a couple of years of each other. Savin Hill had four grammar schools within one half mile . . .The Motley, St. Williams, the Little School, and the Edward Everett, in a neighborhood of 15,000 souls in a square mile from Pleasant Street (Knights of Columbus( to Morrissey Boulevard (Savin Hill Yacht Club, Malibu Beach), from the Sedan Street Bakery to the Adelphia Cafe along Dorchester Avenue.

    In honor of Frankie, Savin Hill kids formed several basketball teams, which we called THE COMERFORD CLUB. The older guys aged seventeen to nineteen let us say, and the Cornpoppers, ages fourteen to sixteen, back then. Danny Ryan hand picked five Cornpoppers, Bob Mancini, Pat Cahalane, Bob Simonin, Neal Connolly and Billy Connolly, and formed a junior Comerford Club Team which won the 1960 YMCA City of Boston Sixteen and Under Basketball Championship.

    We also had two Comerford Club teams competing in the Quincy YMCA Summer League, playing against teams from the City and South Shore; one of our rivals we brawled with was the Milton Mad Men, Jackie Oliva becoming a lifelong friend; we were sixteen, seventeen, then. I remember covering Pete Varney from a Quincy Team . . .we were all in high school, seniors, mostly, and all scrappy, two-fisted kids, and good all around athletes. Pete Varney became famous when he caught the tying score for Harvard in that famous game: Harvard beats Yale, 29-29. Tommy Lee Jones was on that team, as were three of my high school football teammates, Mike Annanis, Steve Ranere and Paul Saba, and Skip Sviokla,our B.C. High Football Captain, was a senior with that Harvard Team the year before.
    All courageous kids, all good athletes. Dick Pete Varney was hard to cover. Skip Sviokla become a Harvard Medical Doctor and courageously wrote a book two years ago: “From Harvard to Hell and Back: a Doctor’s Journey from Opiate Addiction to Recovery.” He is now a practicing psychiatrist in Rhode Island.

    In my book, “Spiritual Glue: the Tao Ties Taut; a Christmas Carol/a Song of Joy” published two years ago (Bookbaby) I mentioned Pete Varney and the other Harvard Players and there’s a chapter “John Barry Said” about another athletic friend, Boston College’s Vinny Shanley, ’71-’72 Hockey Captain. Vinny died suddenly from symptomless pancreatic cancer, which snuck up on him, like my friend John Barry, who out of the blue contracted leukemia age about fifty, and passed away within six weeks. Vinny Shanley of Brighton is mentioned with another English High great athlete like Frankie Comerford, a running back, Barry Hickman who with one minute left ran a punt back for a touchdown beating us, B.C. High guys with all the aforementioned on the field or bench, in a tough, tough struggle . . .Barry’s touchdown broke a zero zero tie and English won 8-0 . . .with one minute left.

    Also, in that same chapter, I mention Joe DeNucci, and just this week I received from my brother Jim, a set of old newspaper/journal stories, and one old newspaper picture showed Joe DeNucci holding his son and talking with the great Muhammed Ali as they were both preparing for upcoming boxing matches, at Connolly’s boxing gym in South Boston. A few years ago, my oldest brother sent me a picture of Joe De Nucci, Tony Demarco, Eddie Connors, and the young Johnson lad, all together with their boxing gloves on, preparing for upcoming fights. I’ve got pictures of four of my favorites downstairs, Vinny Pazienza (photo gift from my brother) Tommy Hearns and Roberto Duran with me (photo taken by an Italian kid my age in Los Vegas) and photo of Marvelous Marvin Hagler, along with a few photographic books of boxing . . .a great sport, almost everyone in Savin Hill engaged in and practiced, oftentimes free style.

    One last coincidence, evoked by An Athlete Dying Young, I was at a meeting with friends in Colorado, on Zoom, and I mentioned that I knew the B.U. Hockey Coach, Jackie Parker since high school . . .he was a friend of Kevin Glynn at Catholic Memorial . . . .the B.C. rival . . .and I mentioned I graduated high school and college with the winningest hockey coach in college history, Jerry York, B.C, 67, who is still B.C.’s hockey coach. Well, there were only 20 persons there, and one young man in his forties said, “Hey, my dad played on Boston College’s 1972 hockey team.” What a coincidence. I told him just two years before I wrote a tribute to my friend Vinny Shanley who was the captain of that team, and I’d send him a copy of it. He said, O.K.

    I love poetry and rock and roll,and all piano music. I remember telling a B.C. coed at a poetry reading two years ago that my favorite was W.B. Yeats’ 1916.

    Two other of my favorites, Yeats’ tersest earthiest verses, Love Song, and Drinking Song, go like this (I’ve probably messed up a word or two)

    Drinking Song
    Wine comes in at the mouth
    Love comes in at the eye
    That’s all we shall know of truth
    Before we grow old and die
    I raise my cup to my lips
    I look at you and I sigh

    Love Song
    Bird sighs for the air
    Thought for I know not where
    For the womb the seed sighs
    Now sinks the same rest
    On thought, on nest
    On trembling thighs

    See, also, Robert Frost’s On Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening, and Dylan Thomas’s two greats, The Hunchback in the Park, and To my Father While Dying: Do Not Go Gentle.

    Peace to those of good will; to those not of good will, Special Forces.